7 Simple Ways to Cut Clutter in 2021

Woman decluttering her home
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Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by the post-holiday excess around you? Have the past several years of your family’s success with Santa left your closets, garage, attic and office filled to the rafters?

If so, it might be time for some creative clutter-busting strategies.

Start by letting three questions cut through your material clutter. With each item you consider, ask yourself:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I use it?
  • Will I ever need it?

If your response to each of these questions is “no,” pass the item along and let it find a new home.

Here are several simple ways to kick the clutter habit now.

1. Target one area at a time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that most of us live with. Instead of diving right in and burning out quickly, focus on one area of your home or office at a time.

Because a little positive reinforcement never hurts, start with the easiest areas first. Declutter:

  • A chest of drawers
  • A hall closet
  • One kitchen cupboard
  • A single drawer in your desk

Then, move on to the next spot. If it helps, make a list of all the clutter hot spots that need attention and check each one off as you calm the chaos.

2. Get rid of one item per day

If taming the clutter in your environment seems like an impossible task, start slowly. Decide to rid yourself of just a single item per day, but be determined and relentless.

As the weeks and months pass, you’ll begin to notice and enjoy the extra elbow room your efforts have created. Build on your success by accelerating the clutter-busting schedule and letting go of two or three items each day.

3. Adopt a zero-accumulation rule

To achieve and maintain a clutter-free home or office, adopt a zero-accumulation habit: For every new item that comes into your space, make sure one item goes out. Donate or sell usable items, and recycle or toss what’s left.

For a more aggressive approach, try a one-in, two-out rule and watch those prodigious piles and cramped closets slowly disappear.

4. Think inside the box(es)

The four-box method is a tried-and-true way to quickly get a handle on large amounts of clutter while still ensuring that each item is consciously considered. To begin, get four large boxes and assign each box one of these labels:

  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Trash/recycle
  • Keep but relocate

This system will prevent you from just moving piles around and help you sort what’s needed from what’s not. When you finish organizing one room, empty the boxes according to their labels and start over in a new room.

5. Do the dozens

Choose a regular time each week or month for a “12-12-12” decluttering project.

Here’s how it works: Find a dozen items in your home or office to donate, a dozen to toss or recycle and a dozen to return to their proper places. In short order, you’ve gone through at least 36 items and rid yourself of 24 of them.

6. Impose a space limit

As if by magic, the volume of our possessions seems to expand to fit the available space. Before we know it, that larger house we scrimped and saved for is just as cramped as the smaller one we left behind.

To help combat the creep of clutter, impose a space limit for problem areas. For example, decide to accumulate no more kitchen utensils than will fit into a single drawer or only enough makeup for one cosmetics bag.

Using a finite physical space to limit the seemingly infinite potential of clutter is relatively painless and helps keep those molehills from becoming mountains.

7. Go digital

Ah, if only everything we owned could be digitized and stored in the cloud for easy retrieval when we needed it. It sounds like a minimalist’s dream. Thankfully, at least some of the stuff around us qualifies for easy digital storage.

Clear your desk by scanning documents and photos and storing them digitally through a cloud-storage service. For similar pointers, check out “7 Foolproof Tricks to Tame Your Paperwork.”

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